A shooting on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fair a day earlier did little to dampen the mood or lessen the crowd on Sunday as hundreds of thousands of fairgoers celebrated being back at the event.
Police doubled their presence at the Minnesota State Fair after a person was shot in the leg just after 10 p.m. Saturday near the entrance to the Mighty Midway.
No arrest has been made, and the victim was taken to a hospital with injuries that weren't life-threatening, according to police.
Before the gunshot, officers started seeing groups of teenagers running and fights breaking out after 9 p.m. Saturday. Around a dozen officers were within 20 feet of the shooting when they heard it ring out, Minnesota State Fair Police Chief Ron Knafla said.
The officers "did an outstanding job controlling a very, very chaotic scene," he said.
The fair closed early for the night shortly after, as crowds rushed to the exits or even hopped fences to get out.
But the chaos of the previous night was largely forgotten under Sunday's cloudless skies. Thousands filtered in and out of corn dog stands and beer tents. They lined up patiently for buckets of cookies. Families sat in the shade. Kids pulled their parents up to the edges of the fish pond to gawk at giant sturgeon and see how many walleye they could count.
Erin McCarthy smiled looking at the sea of people moving through the fair. She comes every year with her sister, Megan McCarthy, and friends.
"This is Minnesota," she said. "This is it. I ain't even mad at the lines, because how can you be mad at the State Fair?"
"People are alive and they're happy," Megan McCarthy said.
They felt safe. It was an isolated incident, they said.
Adan Valencia and Karla Tito of Minneapolis won their tickets. They recently moved up from Florida and heard rumors of the fair's food and had to come try it, they said.
It didn't disappoint. Security felt normal, they went through metal detectors to get in, but no bags were checked.
Valencia was impressed by the size of the crowd. "It feels like we're in Orlando," he said.
The fair ends 9 p.m. Monday. Police presence will again be doubled, said John Harrington, state commissioner of public safety.
Harrington said officials did not know how the gun got into the fairgrounds.
Officials believe the victim was the shooter's target and not a bystander.
"I am confident that … we are tracking this the right way," Harrington said. "That in fact, the fact that we were so close to those people in that crowd is why we did not have further violence."
Gov. Tim Walz thanked the law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting. Walz expressed outrage that the suspect fired a gun despite the heavy police presence and hundreds of people nearby.
"There needs to be incredible harsh consequences for that," he said. "I'm just grateful that we got no one seriously injured in this, that the individuals involved knew each other apparently and were in conflict on that."
Violence has marred the fair in the past. In 2019, three people were shot and a woman was hit by a car after an altercation outside the main gate as the fair was closing for the year.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is taking the lead on the investigation.
State Fair officials reported Saturday's attendance hit 249,490. That's down from the pre-pandemic count of 266,412 for the second Saturday in 2019. The record attendance for the second Saturday of the fair of 270,426, set in 2018.